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Added: 21 Feb 2017 Category: Older Oval Racing
And the Year Was..... 2012
I consider 2012 to have been a modern golden era of local oval racing, a time when many classes where getting car numbers in the 20’s, the promotions worked together and you got to see better racing everywhere and Tullyroan opened which spread the footprint of the sport and brought it back to the doorstep of Portadown where the sport had a good following.

Going by my season preview for 2012 there was 94 fixtures scheduled and 21 formula racing in what was going to be a busy year. The 1300’s had now arrived at Nutts Corner Raceway and there was still classes being shared throughout the promotions, including Aghadowey.

For me 2012 began with the Winter Nationals meeting at Ballymena, I think it was actually the last time I got to it before the intention to go got over run by the decision to keep drinking on New Years eve. In 2012 William Buller made a return to the ovals for the meeting in the car then be campaigned by Frankie Lynn, from memory he’d no wets and struggled in slippery conditions. Stewart Doak won the Nationals, Derek Martin won the 2 Litres and Victor McAfee the Stock Rods.

At the banger team meeting in February NIOvalTV filmed our first meeting at Nuttscorner Oval, we’d borrowed a camera to see how it went and used a tripod not really appropriate for the job, but we gave it a shot and the rest is History, despite being a good meeting it turned out to be a poor seller which was disheartening at the time but since that we’ve learnt the team meeting is always a poor seller for us.

Aghadowey ran a meeting at the end of January which included Stock Rods and Lightning Rods and another meeting in March which included Lightning Rods, having only made it to one Aghadowey meeting in the previous two years I made those two meetings to have attended three meetings in a row, as it turned out it was the only three meetings I’d make there as an independant promotion.

In March a NI Oval Racing Select took on Crewe United Legends in a charity football match at Crewe United’s ground. I was part of a squad that included a lot of drivers, which was a bit surreal, but good fun. I think we won 2-1 on the night, drank the bar dry and raised a decent amount of money for charity.

The local race season kicked off at the Easter, which was the end of March and to give you an idea how things have changed since then, 7 National Hot Rods competed in the Good Friday qualifying round at Ballymena, 21 Gp 2 Lightning Rods and 25 Stock Rods were also in action where Raymond Harper won the Stock Rods Yokohama Tyres Championship.

Easter Monday seen 9 Nationals in action at Nuttscorner Oval, 27 Lightning Rods, 27 ProStocks and 23 2.0 Hot Rods, it’s worth noting the car numbers and putting this into context that it was a time when everyone was talking about the price of travelling with fuel prices hitting an all time high and yet 3 classes could field 75 cars between them.

The plan had been for Davy McCall to have moved to Tullyroan for the start of the 2012 season but various delays, mainly the weather the previous year had held that up and the promotion staged their opening meetings at Nuttscorner Oval, including Shamwreck, which was the last one I attended under the Nuttscorner Oval banner. World Champion Shane Davies was the man to beat at Shamwreck 2012 and he took the title, best tin went to Mike Flaherty again, this time in a big yank, while the wreck of the day came from Anthony McIvor in the Robins as he tried a last bend hit on Jay Jay McConaghie, missed and put the car up on two wheels and into the pit gate post, destroying the car, it was one of the few crashes I’ve seen in my time at Oval racing that has your heart in your mouth, but despite being knocked out momentarily he was fine, other than not remembering it, if you haven’t seen it then check out NIovalTV’s facebook page.

On the 26th of May and following a few practice days Tullyroan Oval staged it’s first meeting. I’d had my reservations about travelling that far for the racing, but there was good car numbers, good racing and NIOvalTV was creating a bit of a buzz and it was paying my way.
Ed Davis won the opening race at the new venue, I think running out of the yellow grade at the time in the Junior Productions. The night was dogged with teething problems and races had to be dropped in the end from memory as the lightning wasn’t installed or wasn’t working, either way it was too dark to race on, but it was still clear the place was awesome.

In June the F2’s came to town, included in the visiting line up was Daz Kitson, George MacMillan Jnr, Denis Midler, Jack Aldridge, Chris Burgoyne and a few others. Chris Burgoyne retained the Irish Open Championship at Ballymena and George MacMillan Jnr won the F2 Nationals Championship at Nutts Corner Raceway.
16 Saloons were also in action alongside the F2’s, my report at the time said a small field of 16, but you’d break someone’s arm for 16 cars now. Stuart Shevill Jnr took the win in their Irish Open at Ballymena.

The Stock Rods were the first “guest” class to come to Tullyroan and from memory there was over 30 cars in action when they raced there in June, mostly Ballymena cars with some Tipperary cars up as well. They put on a good show from memory.

June 2012 was marred with the tragic death of Steve Newman, a Saloon racer who died following an incident on track at Mildenhall, the sport united in mourning with most drivers painting the front bumpers of their cars yellow as a tribute.

At the Ipswich Spedeweekend in July Glenn Bell won the National Hot Rod World Championship in greasy/ wet conditions. Shane Murray also retained the Stock Rod British Championship on the Saturday night.

After Ipswich the action moved to Tullyroan for the 2.0 Hot Rods and Lightning Rods European Championship, but between those weekend the 2 Litre’s were in action at a domestic meeting at Tullyroan and a huge pile out gave a lot of drivers a lot of work to be ready for the European. The Saloon Stock Cars also visited Tullyroan with 13 Saloons in action.

When the Speedweekend came round Shane Murray’s domination of the 2.0 Hot Rods continued as he won the European. Stephen Emerson won the Lightning Rods European, John Christie won the NHR Irish Masters, the last time they appeared at the Tullyroan Speedweekend. Steffan McCleland won the ProStocks Irish Open, there was 127 cars in action on the Saturday night.

Following the Speedweekend was one of my seasons highlights, the F2’s racing at Tullyroan, Graham Fegan won the final in their first appearance of two at the venue and Denver Grattan won the final at their second one in Mid September.

At the Hednesford National weekend Glenn Bell added the National Hot Rod National Championship to the World Championship he’d won a few weeks earlier.

Over the summer Aghadowey closed as an independent track, the classes they had hosted moved to Ballymena, merged with other classes or ceased to exist.

Towards the End of August Ballymena staged the Stock Rods World Final over a Friday night and Saturday with 40 Stock Rods in action over the weekend. Stephen McCready was first across the line with Colm O’Sullivan second, but following scrutineering it was third placed man Chris Gordon who ended up the World Champion.

A week on from the Stock Rod World weekend at Ballymena the track staged it’s 35th Anniversary meeting which was headlined by the National Hot Rods British Championship. The meeting included things like a car show as well as a shopping trolley race and a few celebrity races which included Kris Meeke, Eugene Laverty, Gordon Crockard, Josh Brookes and Jeremy McWilliams. On the track Tom Casey became the first Irish man to win the British Championship. On the day 121 cars raced including Ronnie Wright in his old Saloon and Norman Woolsey in a Corca C 2.0 Hot Rod.

Day two of the National Hot Rod weekend seen the action move to Tullyroan where Glenn Bell won the Irish Open Championship. Shane Murray won the 2.0 Hot Rod Irish Open at the same meeting.

The next major championship up was the F2 World where the build up again had all been about Moodie and Speak. Mickey Brennan took his second world title in a destructive world final. Denver Grattan finished fourth and was best overseas driver.

Ballymena staged the 1300 Stock Cars National Championship, at the time there was something odd that some of our cars weren’t up to spec for major championships but could race in domestic meetings, so it wasn’t a huge field of cars and it was won by English visitor “Pearcie”. I think Lucinda Smyth won the Gp 2 Lightning Rods Irish Championship on the same night. Ryan Abernethy won the ProStocks British Championship at Tullyroan on the Sunday of the same weekend, the third meeting in as many days.

Locally there was Irish Championship wins for Jack Gilpin (Junior Productions), Stevie McNiece (Stock Rods), Jordan Rochford (Lightning Rods), Derek Martin (2.0 Hot Rods), Steffan McClelland (ProStocks) and Ian Bolton (Reliant Robins) amongst others I’ve no notes on. Craig McConnell won the F2 Ballymena Stadium Champion

After the season had ended it was announced that Superstox would be added to the Tullyroan Oval line up for 2013 as the Spedeworth partnership in Northern Ireland switched to DMC.
The year ended with another loss to the sport, Derek Mason better known as ‘Big D’ passed away on boxing day.

As side notes for the year that I recall happened, but I’m not really sure when, the ProStocks outlawed several of the smaller cars like Corsa B’s, Novas, Civics and Tigras which sent the class in the direction of Mark 4 Astras as the way forward.
Stephen Emerson was first across the line in the Lightning Rod World at Northampton but was docked, I think for contact.
The BBC’s “See Hear” programme filmed at Tullyroan with Marc Morrell and Leigh Nicholl.
The 2.0 Hot Rod World took place in South Africa, in cars that weren’t 2.0 Hot Rods, I’d the time I ran and with that decision pretty much lost all interest in trying to promote the class. At a time when Shane Murray was on top form it probably robbed him of the chance of completing a clean sweep of major titles.

NIOvalTV filmed it's first meeting in Feb 2012

Best Tin at Shamwreck

Ed Davis was the first winner at Tullyroan Oval in May

F2's line up at Ballymena for the Irish Open

Glenn Bell won the Gold Top at Ipswich in the Nationals

A gathering of World Champions to cut the ribbon for the official opening of Tullyroan at the July Speedweekend

Saloons entertained at Tullyroan...

... as did the F2's

Stock Rod World final grid at Ballymena in August

Chris Gordon eventually declared World Champion in the Stock Rods

Kris Meeke was among the Star Drivers to appear at Ballymena's 35th Anniversary meeting

Nationals line up at Ballymena for their British Championship

F2's line up at Ballymena

1300 Saloons line up at Ballymena

2 Litre Hot Rod grid on the new tar at Tullyroan
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